"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." - President Ronald Reagan.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wi-Fi Coming To Mount Fuji

Above, a view of Mount Fuji from the bullet train. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

For those who plan to hike to the summit of Japan's Mount Fuji, there's some good news for those climbers who also want to surf the Internet while there.

RocketNews24 reported:
Not so long ago, many would have thought of the idea of using the Internet while climbing Mt. Fuji to be absurd. You’re on one of the most culturally significant, naturally beautiful sites in Japan, and you want to take time out to surf the Web? 
But the Internet is now an invaluable resource for travelers, hikers included. There’s no more effective way to keep track of your location, check weather conditions, coordinate your trek with public transportation schedules, or keep in contact with the rest of your group of fellow outdoorsmen than with a smartphone or other mobile Internet-capable device, which is why this summer free Wi-Fi is coming to Mt. Fuji. 
Service provider Wire & Wireless will be offering wireless Internet access at a total of 49 locations on Japan’s tallest mountain, including all of the mountain huts that provide temporary lodging for climbers.
To read more, go here


Above, Scott in Hawaii. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Well, it has been done.

I filed in Small Claims Court today for the money Jacquese Scott owes for the Hawaii trip in May. It is so incredibly stupid and illogical of her to not fulfill her obligation to me and repay the debt. Then again, I haven't been dealing with logical people recently. Some who are familiar with this "saga" feel that both Denise Santos and Jackie are worse than stupid, they're dishonest.

Even though she is the best friend of Denise, despite whatever issues Denise and I may have (which has nothing to do with Jackie), she still has the obligation to repay me. Pure and simple.

Now, she can add to the $808.25 she owes the costs I incurred in filing the lawsuit.

Maybe somebody will finally get the message that I do mean business!

"Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn't have fucked with? That's me." - Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.

Reactions to this blog post:
You go Armand!!!! 
 Knuckleheads usually don't learn and continue in life as knuckleheads.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Donald Trump Bobble-head

Above, Donald Trump bobble-heads at Greta's Guns in Simi Valley. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Today was spent shopping at gun stores in the San Fernando and Simi Valleys.

I was looking for a holster and ammo. After a couple of stops, I found what I wanted.

While at Greta's Guns (named for a dog, by the way) in Simi Valley, I spotted an item for sale on display: Donald Trump bobble-head figures.

They are about $20 each. I thought about getting one for my political memorabilia collection, but I already have enough clutter in my apartment. So I passed.

No, they don't have any Hillary bobble-heads (in case you were wondering).

A Long, Long Trailer

Above, the 1953 Vagabond trailer.

A recent story of a 1953 Vagabond trailer that sat abandoned and unused for about 60 years reminded a lot of people of the Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz feature film, The Long, Long Trailer (1954).

The Vagabond trailer's interior is in great condition. The story has a lot of photographs of the interior. I wouldn't mind having it!

To read the story, go here.

Below, is a long, long trailer for The Long, Long Trailer.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Godzilla On Kevin Ratliff's Headstone

Above, the back of Kevin Ratliff's headstone. Photo by Frances Ratliff.

Last September, longtime Godzilla toy dealer Kevin Ratliff (Monsterland Toys) lost his battle with Crohn's Disease. He was also a dealer for The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

Recently, his widow Frances posted photos of Kevin's headstone.

Above, the front of Kevin Ratliff's headstone. Photo by Frances Ratliff.

It was very fitting that an image of Godzilla was included on one side of the headstone as he was a big fan of the Big G. Along with an image of Godzilla, a line from The Wolf Man (1941) was also included.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum Visitors Surge After Obama Visit

Above, the cenotaph and the Peace Museum in Hiroshima. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park and Museum has been a popular tourist attraction, but the numbers of visitors surged since President Obama's visit last month.

Kyodo News reported:
The number of visitors to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum rose by about 40 percent from a year earlier in the four weeks following U.S. President Barack Obama's visit, the museum said Tuesday. 
"It is a sign of increased interest due to the Obama effect," said an official of the museum, which put the number of visitors at 161,720 from May 28 -- the day after Obama's historic visit to the western Japan city -- to June 27. 
Of the estimated visitors, 31,348 were foreign nationals, an increase of more than 50 percent from the year before, according to the museum.
To read more, go here

Monday, June 27, 2016

15 Must-Buy Delicious Souvenirs At Tokyo Station

Above, Tokyo Banana cakes. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Six years ago, while in the shopping mall at Tokyo Station, I picked up a box of Tokyo Banana. They were recommended to me by a client back home. I was not disappointed!

Tsunagu Japan posted a list of 15 delicious  must-buy souvenirs one can buy at Tokyo Station.

They begin with:
Tokyo Station offers so many kinds of souvenirs, that you may not be able to decide what to buy. Let me introduce 15 must-buy delicious souvenirs around Tokyo Station.
Last October, we picked up a couple of boxes of Tokyo Banana to take home. There's a Tokyo Banana on the list that's different than the ones we bought.

To see what they are, go here.  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Another Curve Ball

Have you ever wished that life would just be a smooth ride or just plain dull normal?

Mine has been far from being "dull normal" for weeks. It seems that there as been one curve ball thrown at me after another. Fortunately, the curve balls thrown have been what other people have done rather than anything originating from my brow. Sometimes I wish that this year never started. But one just has to deal with them and move on.

There's a saying that I believe came from an Adventures of Superman director Lee Sholem.

He said:
Above, Jessica yesterday at the Lamplighter
restaurant. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Life isn't fair. The fair's in Pomona!
That's pretty much how I look at life.

Yesterday, my former roommate Jessica and I had a nice day. We started with breakfast and then shopping at a local mall. I took her home and she seemed fine, just tired. What can go wrong, right?

Then came the curve ball.

Well, her father called me a little while ago to tell me that she's been admitted into the hospital. It is related to her (major) medical condition. Hopefully, it is just a minor "bump in the road" and nothing major. She was admitted last night.

While I may wish for things to return to a state of dull normalcy, I also have to look at things from a different perspective. Things may have been in turmoil for the past several weeks on a personal level, but they pale in comparison to someone who has to face every day with a major medical problem. Should they wake up in the morning alive, then already it's a good day! Try dealing with that kind of life.

Without being specific, Jes major medical issues. It has been an ordeal since everything all began in January 2014. Much of it has to do with dealing with the bureaucratic red tape of the medical center and insurance. Besides affecting Jes, it has also taken a toll on her family as well as those close to her, including myself.

It will be a joyous day for everyone when she finally gets the resolution she needs. We all hope that that day comes soon!

UPDATE (6/30/16): Jes was released from the hospital yesterday. She's doing much better!

Hawaii Blowback: Debt Unpaid

Above, at Hilo Airport after a helicopter tour of Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park.

bilk (bɪlk)
1. to defraud; cheat.
2. to evade payment of or to: to bilk a creditor.
3. to frustrate: a career bilked by poor health.
4. to escape from; elude. 
5. a cheat; swindler.
6. a trick; fraud; deceit.
Back in Febuary, Denise Santos and I began planning the trip to Hawaii to celebrate Denise's birthday. Denise wanted her best friend Jacquese "Jackie" Scott to join us on the trip.

The three of us went to the Northridge office of the Automobile Club of Southern California to talk to Nicki, one of the travel agents.

Fortunately for us, the Auto Club had a sale on Hawaii trips. She provided us with an itinerary and the cost amounts. We then headed to the nearby Coco's restaurant for breakfast and to discuss the trip further.

While at Coco's, Denise asked that I front the cash to lock in the trip for Jackie and she would repay me. Jackie concurred. I agreed to it. As a birthday present to Denise, I paid for her and her son.

I don't mind helping someone out, but I bristled at being put on the spot at that moment.

Later, I told Denise that I was not happy being put on the spot and that she should have discussed it with me first in private. She apologized and promised that things would be discussed first between us.

The cost per person was $1,408.25 for seven days in Hawaii, which included all flights, transfers, taxes, fees and accommodations. It was a very good deal. Our scheduled departure date was May 4.

On March 4, Jackie paid me $300 in cash. Things were looking good.

Then there was a "lull" in payments as Jackie wanted to pay for her activities (para sailing, helicopter tour, luau, etc.). I was annoyed with this as she decided this on her own without asking me if I were okay with it. I really wasn't, but what could I do?

She made another $300 cash payment on April 17. After this, her balance due was $808.25. That is where we stand today.

On May 15, following a blow-up with Denise (which ultimately lead to our break-up), I sent Jackie a friendly text message asking, "How do you want to handle the remaining $808 that you still owe for the Hawaii trip?" I received no response. Her debt to me has nothing to do with the current status of Denise and I.

On June 7, during which time Denise and I were still friendly (hoping that she would light a fire under Jackie's butt to pay me in full), I decided that I've waited enough and sent Jackie this text:
Jackie, since you have not made any good faith effort to repay me the remaining $808 for the Hawaii trip, I am giving you until June 30th to pay me back in full, or we're going to small claims court.
Again, no response.

Additionally, Denise has never mentioned the subject of Jackie's debt to me since we got back. That says a lot.

All Jackie had to do is to pop a check for $808.25 in the mail (she could get my address from Denise).

She has four more days to pay the balance owed or I will go to Small Claims Court to file on June 30. Besides failing morally to fulfill a debt obligation, it is also stupid. Once I win the judgment, this will be included in her future credit reports. I have never lost in Small Claims Court, personally or professionally.

I think I have been fair and nice about this, but one can only take so much in being taken advantage of. I thought that Jackie had more class than what she has displayed so far.

Let justice be done if need be.

UPDATE (6/27/16):  No response yet. She's got two days to pay up or I'm filing on June 30.

UPDATE (6/29/16): No response and no payment. So, unless she brings me the cash tomorrow morning before I go file, we're going to Small Claims Court. How stupid! Classy gal!

Reactions to this post:
You were robbed! 
Did you ever get the ring back? That must have been quite a rock given the price you mentioned. I'm sorry you were treated that way, Armand. 
Ouch I'm so sorry to hear that. damn. 
: having a cheap and ugly appearance
: morally low or bad 
truly feel your PAIN bro...!

Miyajima's Scenic Spots

Above, Miyajima's famous "floating" torii gate. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Back in 2004, the first G-TOUR took a day trip from Kyoto to Hiroshima via shinkansen. It's hard to believe that nearly 12 years had passed since that trip.

While we were in the Hiroshima area, we paid a visit to Miyajima that sits in the Seto Inland Sea. We took a ferry to the island and spent a few hours wandering around.

Following our visit to Miyajima, we visited the Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima.

Malay Mail's website has an article on the things to see on Miyajima that includes Itsukushima Shrine, the famous "floating" torii gate and wandering deer.

They begin with:
MIYAJIMA, June 26 — Named one of Japan’s top three scenic spots, Miyajima is a tiny island that packs a great number of attractions and picturesque sights, making it a compact destination on its own or as a side trip from Hiroshima. You can get a quick overview of its key landmarks within three hours but it is best to set aside a full day to discover her multiple charms. Here are 12 things to do, see and taste at this serene island. 
I am considering a return visit to Miyajima later this year.

To read more, go here

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Same-Day Reservations For Imperial Palace Tours

Above, the Nijubashi Bridge at the Imperial Palace. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

For those visiting Tokyo, the Imperial Household Agency announced that a same-day registration for tours of certain areas of the Imperial Palace has been implemented.

According to Japan Today:
TOKYO —The Imperial Household Agency on Saturday introduced a same-day registration system for guided tours of parts of the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo to enable visitors to see the place without prior reservation. 
The measure was taken in line with the government’s strategy to boost tourism as Japan aims to increase the annual number of overseas visitors to 40 million by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The tour generally takes about 75 minutes and the number of people per tour will be increased from 300 to 500 persons.

To read more, go here

Nice Outing

Above, Jes at the Lamplighter Restaurant wearing the
necklace I got her in Hawaii. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Today was a pleasant day as I was out with my former roomie Jessica.

We began the day by heading to the Lamplighter Restaurant for breakfast.

Following that, we made a stop or two before heading to the Topanga Promenade shopping mall in Woodland Hills where she picked up a few things.

Funny thing, I was getting bored while she shopped so I found a chair in Target's patio furniture department. While I relaxed, she shopped to her heart's content without me around to nag her to hurry up. (The only "nagging" I did was to try to get her to go back to her natural hair color, jet black. She likes to experiment with different colors.) I managed to doze off in the chair (glad I picked a comfortable one). I don't know for how long I dozed, but when I woke up, she was in the next chair over, asleep. She said she must have dozed off for five or ten minutes.

She finished up her shopping and we went to the checkstand and headed out.

It was refreshing to be out with a gal and not have any drama during the whole time. Jes has always been straightforward and true blue. Her loyalty is unquestioned. Plus, we have a similar sense of humor. We're planning to go to the Ventura Beach RV Resort in a couple of weeks.

Brexit: Japanese Travel Companies In Wait-And-See Mode

Above, Kyoto Tower. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Brexit matter has thrown a lot of things in flux. Nobody knows what's going to happen economically, socially or even with travel.

The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun) reported that travel companies are taking a wait-and-see stance for now.

They wrote:
Travel companies in Japan remain uncertain of how Britain’s departure from the European Union will impact them. 
Unlike Germany, France and some other nations, Britain has not signed the Schengen Agreement, which allows people to move freely within the member countries without the use of a passport. Thus, the passport requirement for traveling from or to Schengen member countries will remain unchanged. 
“There will be no newly imposed restrictions on free movement in the wake of the latest development. So I doubt the number of [Japanese] tourists [to Europe] will drop,” said Toshiro Yajima, the head of public relations at the Japan Association of Travel Agents. 
But Yajima said that if Japanese companies withdraw from London and other parts of Britain, demand for business trips might decrease.
Meanwhile, this shouldn't affect tourism to Japan as they aren't a part of the turmoil in Europe. But, the dollar did take a big hit against the yen in Tokyo trading Friday in Brexit's aftermath, plummeting briefly below ¥100. It is currently at ¥102.

To read more, go here

Friday, June 24, 2016

When One Door Closes...

A friend posted this at Facebook earlier. It pretty much sums up this week.

Markets Tumble Over Brexit News

Yesterday's Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom sent market prices tumbling worldwide today.

According to Bloomberg:
The world’s 400 richest people lost $127.4 billion Friday as global equity markets reeled from the news that British voters elected to leave the European Union. The billionaires lost 3.2 percent of their total net worth, bringing the combined sum to $3.9 trillion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The DOW dropped 610 points (-3.39%) in today's trading over the news that British voters voted to pull out of the European Union. My own retirement investment account lost 1.513% of its value.

However, this is just the initial reaction by jittery people. Over the long term, U.S. markets should benefit as the European Union crumbles (five more countries are contemplating exiting the EU). World investors would then turn to U.S. markets as they would see them as safer and stable.

We'll see how things go when the markets open again on Monday.

To read more, go here

"10 Reasons Why Japan is Awesome for Solo Female Travel"

Above, a JR Yamanote Line train in Tokyo. Public transit is safe, affordable and easy. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

This really doesn't apply to us guys, but it will be of interest to the ladies who may be contemplating a solo trip to Japan. Yes, there are female Godzilla/kaiju, anime and manga fans who may want to visit Japan.

As a man, it was very easy for me to travel solo to Japan (or anywhere else, for that matter), but women traveling alone may feel vulnerable in a different country. In seven out of eight trips to Japan, I traveled solo. Last year, I brought Denise Santos and her son Aiden with me. It was a different but enjoyable experience.

Writer Alyssa Ramos has written "10 Reasons Why Japan is Awesome for Solo Female Travel" for the Huffington Post. Here, she describes why Japan is such a great place for the female solo traveler.

She begins with:
I didn’t go to Japan looking to test out its safety or to see if it was or wasn’t a good place for solo female travel. I’m so used to traveling on my own these days that it seems normal to me, however I have to say, I was especially blown away by my solo experience in Japan. 
Not only did I feel safer in Japan than I usually do back home in LA, but I also felt more respected, welcomed, and able to freely and easily explore than I have in most countries. The people in Japan are some of the nicest I’ve ever met, and there was not one single millisecond when I thought I was in a dangerous area or situation. Japan was also fairly easy to travel around in, and even had specific transportation and accommodation options for females only! 
So as a an experienced solo female traveler, here’s what I noticed about Japan that made it one of my top choices for solo female travel:

To see the 10 reasons, go here

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Five Things You Should Not Miss In Japan

Above, our shinkansen train at Atami Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

An article has surfaced on the Times of India website, Economic Times on five things that visitors should not miss while visiting Japan.

I have experienced three of them already. Each are worthwhile.

The article begins with:
The picturesque destination of Japan is an intriguing 'Land of the Rising Sun' indeed. Gifted with great historic architecture, cutting edge technology, fascinating fashion and cultural extravaganza, Japan is the place to visit! Famous for its temples and shrines, you could spend weeks and months in cities such as Kyoto or Nara where you can feast your eyes on architectural marvels, unique cuisine and traditional highlights. 
The photo that accompanies this blog post is one of them.

To read more, go here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Happy (Belated) Birthday Martin Landau

Above, Armand with Martin Landau at the 2013 Monsterpalooza.

Sorry I missed this, but two days ago Oscar-winning character actor Martin Landau turned 88.

Landau was born on June 20, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York.

I had the honor of meeting him at Monsterpalooza in 2013. He is still acting.

He won the Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood (1994).

Happy (belated) Birthday!

New Sightseeing Center To Open At Shinjuku Station

Above, Godzilla can be seen not far from Shinjuku Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

For those who would like to explore other areas of Japan, a new tourist center will be opening next month in Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. Shinjuku Station, by the way, is within easy walking distance to the Hotel Gracery and the Toho Cinemas, where Godzilla peers over the top of the complex.

According to The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun):
Keio Corp. and its group companies will open an information center and travel-related facilities for the rapidly increasing number of foreign tourists at an underground mall in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station in July. 
The group hopes to enhance the options available to such tourists by building a center specializing in trips to the Chubu region, where rich nature and a traditional way of life have been preserved. It will be open near the Keio Mall and Keio Mall Annex, which are adjacent to Keio New Line Shinjuku Station.
To read more, go here

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

New JAL Domestic Airfare For Foreign Visitors To Kyushu

Above, Fukuoka Yafuoku! Dome that is familiar to Gamera fans. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Those of you who are Godzilla or Gamera fans are in luck!

Japan Airlines has announced a new domestic airfare for Kyushu of ¥5,400.

According to Japan Today:
TOKYO —Japan Airlines (JAL) is offering a new domestic fare - “oneworld® YOKOSO/Visit KYUSHU Fare” for overseas visitors in order to stimulate travel demand from overseas to the Kyushu region. 
JAL said it hopes the new fare will help invigorate the local economy by attracting more overseas travelers to visit Kyushu through its enhanced domestic network.
Gamera, Godzilla and Rodan made appearances over the years at various locations in Kyushu. This would be a great opportunity for fans to visit the island, especially if time is limited and one can't take an all-day ride on the shinkansen from Tokyo or Osaka.

To read more, go here or here.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Japan Tourism Agency To Survey Foreign Social Media

Above, Odaiba and the Rainbow Bridge. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

To better meet the needs and desires of foreign tourists to Japan, the Japan Tourism Agency will be surveying social media posts by people who have voiced opinions on their experiences in Japan.

According to The Japan Times:
The Japan Tourism Agency plans to survey and analyze social media posts by foreign tourists to understand their needs during visits to Japan, sources said Monday. 
From Tuesday, the agency will publicly seek a firm to undertake the project, which is set to start in August. 
The planned survey will search for posts about Japan trips on social networking websites such as Twitter and China’s Weibo, as well as travel review sites including TripAdvisor.
To read more, go here

111° In Tarzana!

Above, here's a nice snow scene of Japan of two years ago. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

According to the Weather Channel app on my cell phone, it is 111­­° in Tarzana right now. My patio thermometer indicate 90°. We're only in June! We should be having cooler and overcast days ("June Gloom").

These are Death Valley or Barstow temperatures!

This isn't too surprising, Los Angeles is basically built on a desert. People seem to forget that, instead blaming heat waves on "global warming" or other such nonsense.

Thank goodness I have central air conditioning!

Father's Day At The Reagan Library, Part Two

Above, Amber and I waiting for the library to open.

When Amber and I visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Air Force One in Simi Valley during Father's Day yesterday, I must have taken over 40 photographs.

I posted 13 of them yesterday, but here are some more:

Above, a GOP elephant. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the main entrance. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the Ronald Reagan statue at the main entrance. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the library pay station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, Air Force One. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, Air Force One with the Father's Day banquet set up below. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the tail. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, a nice setting for a luncheon banquet. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, visitors boarding Air Force One. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, a view from the Air Force One Pavilion. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, looking towards the Reagan tomb. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the book section of the gift shop. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Going Through Old Family Albums

Above, my dad and I at Morro Bay in June 1963.

Following our visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Air Force One, Amber and I migrated to her apartment to go through family photo albums in my mom's cedar chest.

I haven't seen these photos since before my mom passed away over six years ago.

While looking through them was bittersweet, it was a good bonding activity for the both of us. Where I could remember who they were, I identified many relatives and friends to Amber.

Since today is Father's Day, the above photo of my dad and I would be appropriate to post here. I was looking for a photo of us that I hadn't posted before. I found it in one of the albums today.

It was a good, fun day today.

Father's Day At The Reagan Library

Above, the statue of Ronald Reagan at the main entrance. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

For Father's day, Amber too me to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Air Force One in Simi Valley, California.

We wanted to the the special exhibit of artifacts from the Vatican.

We got to see all that and the rest of the library and toured the inside of Air Force One (SAM 27000).

This was the busiest we've seen the library. A special Father's Day luncheon is to take place below Air Force One. We decided to skip that.

Here's some more photos of our time:

Above, the main entrance. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the replica Oval Office. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the forward section of Air Force One. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the aft section of Air Force One. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the luncheon set-up below Air Force One. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, Amber enjoying the view outside of the Air Force One Pavilion. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, a chunk of the Berlin Wall. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, a visit to the tomb of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the headstone. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, our souvenir photo. Photo by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Above, while waiting for the library to open.

Above, at the Air Force One Pavilion.

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